People who have met Buddy, my adopted Nepali street dog, always comment on how polite, relaxed, friendly and loving he is. “He is so calm!” many say. “What a nice boy!” others exclaim. Everyone seems to realize he is very noble and serene. Buddy also has a very rare personality for someone who lived on the rough streets of Kathmandu for half of his life: He trusts completely. Buddy awaits patiently for whatever needs to happen. Whether it is going for a walk, getting his meal or riding in the car (which he loves by the way), he never begs or barks or howls. He simply sits and waits.
Buddy is by no means a dog who has been trained to be still and behave nicely. In fact, after Buddy was rescued, he spent around five years in an animal shelter in Nepal. He was one of the oldest surviving residents when I brought him home. And even then, Buddy showed no signs of being desperate to leave the shelter. On the day I met him, he greeted me nicely and off he went. When I went back to adopt him, his behavior was similar. He didn’t resist going into the taxi. He just sat and enjoyed the ride, probably admiring the mountains of the Kathmandu Valley.
So how can a Nepalese street dog teach me spiritual principles? How does someone who is unable to speak become one’s teacher? Buddy is a spiritual guide for me and although I am still working on all of these, I thought I’d share five of the spiritual gifts my Nepalese street dog has given me.
Be Present - Some people say that pets don’t think about the future nor the past; that they simply live on this present moment. Buddy has shown over the years that he is right where he needs to be. He enjoys being outside smelling the plants. He enjoys sniffing traces of other dogs on the streets. He rejoices in walking around his favorite places and he is in no rush to get back home. Buddy has gone on long car rides and he loves sticking his nose outside the window and just sniff, sniff, sniff. Even when I meditate next to him, holding his paw, he doesn’t let go. He allows me to be with him in that precious moment. However, he also reminds me that I am not giving him my full presence if I am on scrolling through my phone while petting him, for example.
With Buddy I am learning that being present is the best gift I can give to someone. He has taught me that rejoicing in the moment we have together as two soul mates is filled with joy. Happiness is there, in that very moment, not on my WhatsApp chats or Instagram feed. Loyalty, companionship, unconditional love are tangible. I can touch Buddy and instantly get all of that. If I am mindful and present, happiness is right there.
Accept - Buddy has gone through a lot in his life. He survived being attacked by street dogs in Nepal. He suffered from terrible mange and E. Canis and spent several years in an overcrowded shelter. He also got through the 2015 Nepal earthquake, and a few years later, he took his first long flight and moved to the Middle East. And although he is now in a safe and loving environment, his health is fragile. Buddy is dealing with arthritis and an incurable heart condition. All these issues have meant that Buddy has had to visit doctors throughout his life and more often than not, he has been in pain. However, he doesn’t fight it. He lets things happen as they should. He accepts.
Buddy has taught me to accept the things I don’t like, the things I have no control over like health conditions, circumstances, change and nature. He has also taught me to surrender and not resist. I am still working on this one (and all of the principles listed here), but seeing him go through so much helps build my tolerance levels towards hardship and acceptance.
Trust - During the 2015 earthquake, Buddy saw people around him scream, run and cry. He didn’t bark or howl. He whined for a bit, but then he sat with the rest of us and remained calm, as to reassure us that we would all be ok. Children gathered around him, probably in search for tranquility and comfort. They petted him. He let them. That same night the tremors continued. I was frightened to say the least, and kept crawling under a table every time we felt something. I yelled at his name so that he would do “dock and cover” with me. He didn’t. He went back to sleep. He was calm. He trusted.
Buddy taught me then to trust that the Universe, in our case God, had our back and that we would make it together. We did. During every walk, Buddy teaches me to trust that we are safe, and that we can smell the roses (or trees) along the way. Buddy trusts strangers; he trusts people he has never seen before and above all, Buddy trusts that we are looked after.
Forgive - Traveling or spending too much time outside home in places where Buddy can’t come makes me feel guilty. Not taking him on a walk after I’ve promised him to do so brings remorse. Petting other dogs in front of him feels uncomfortable; and the worst, bringing a Jordanian rescued kitten into our lives has felt like treason. In all of these instances, Buddy wasn’t happy or comfortable. Did he resent me? most probably, but he didn’t keep that feeling for very long. He was wise to move quickly back to a place of love. He forgave.
Buddy has taught me that others don’t want to hurt me on purpose. The same way he has forgiven me, I want to learn that by being forgiving of other people’s shortcomings and my own, I can go back to enjoying the love and happiness that is available to me. Peace is the gift of forgiveness.
Many times in my expat years (and throughout my life) I have felt disturbed about what people around me have done or not done. The sooner I have let those emotions go, the sooner I have gained peace again. Buddy doesn’t hold a grudge for very long. What an enlightened dog!
Be Patient - Buddy has mastered the art of being patient. Whether it is waiting to get his meal a couple of hours after the usual time, staying indoors until we get home or watching the hours go by till he finally gets to ride in the car, he can be still and at ease. He closes his eyes and just is.
Buddy’s patience is mind boggling. Multiple times in Nepal when we had to get him on IV fluids, he sat on a stretcher for almost an hour without trying to escape. Other times, despite being in pain and looking very unhappy, he allowed Dr. Pranav Joshi, his vet and friend, to do his thorough check-ups which included getting blood drawn and the use of medical tools. He didn’t resist it.
Buddy has taught me to allow things to happen the way they are meant to. Buddy knows that by being patient he doesn’t create more anxiety for him and that the situation however uncomfortable it might be, will come to an end. Buddy has taught me many times that the phrase “This too shall pass” is a good mantra to tell myself.
I would like to end this post by sharing a quote from a book I read some time ago. It is called How to Sit by the vietnamese Buddhist monk , Thich Nhat Hanh, also known as the father of mindulfness.
“Peace and calm are contagious.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Buddy is the epitome of that. Having a Nepalese dog as my spiritual teacher has been one of the best gifts I have ever received. Thanks to Buddy’s presence in my life, I am a happier, more compassionate human being.
Your turn. Have you had a spiritual connection with an animal that you hold dear to this day? Has a sentient being touched your soul in different ways? What animal has been your greatest teacher? Please do share!
Thank you for being here. Namaste.
You can read more about Buddy’s story in this article published by Franimals.org